Persuasion, seduction, negotiation, and fear have lost their effectiveness to clinch the deal, close the sale, and make cash registers ring. Whiter, brighter, faster, and better — while intriguing — no longer motivate consumers to act. Today’s savvy marketers are shifting strategies to more strongly connect with customers; they are harnessing the power of the four Ps of high voltage communications(TM) — personhood, purpose, persona, and presence — to promote their products, services, issues, and organizations.
Sick of the impersonal quality of much of their daily lives, Americans are seeking to reconnect and build stronger relationships. “In all walks of life, we see a trend toward wanting to convert impersonal transactions into personal relations,” reports famed futurist Daniel Yankelovich.
Connection, or the feeling of belonging, is one of the top three human needs, according to psychologist Abraham Maslow, after physical needs. In our well-fed society, almost all of our physiological and safety needs are being met, but for many the need for connection is not, and smart businesses are responding.
The image of business today is being altered, says futurist Faith Popcorn in her bestselling book Clicking. “(Business will be) no longer seen as a war to be won by trouncing the competition, but viewed as a complicated mosaic to be developed, one relationship at a time.”
Sharp marketers forge stronger connections with their constituents by building deeper relationships that result in trust, and this trust is built on the four Ps of high voltage communications(TM).
Personhood: Personhood requires companies to be self-aware, self-accepting, and self-disclosing. In order to be self-aware and accepting, many marketers use a tool called “gap analysis.” During a gap analysis, research is conducted to determine if a company’s current reputation matches its desired one: if it doesn’t, further research is required to find out why. If it’s because of consumers’ perceptions, marketers know they must do a better job of promoting, and if it’s a real problem, they understand changes must be made.
Personhood also requires being authentic and after too many recent corporate scandals, being authentic has never been so important.
“In the current environment, it’s time for brands to rethink their basic brand foundation and consider adding a pillar around trust. They must clarify their company’s values and synchronize them with their customers’ values,” says Ed Keller, CEO of RoperASW, one the world’s most respected market research firms.
Smart marketers earn consumers’ trust when they are self-disclosing and/or willing to make fun of themselves. A good example is when Jaguar confronted its reputation for mechanical problems and turned its business around by promoting, “We kept what you loved. The rest is history.”
By putting a face on a product, issue, or organization, high voltage marketers(TM) use personhood to personalize their products. But a pretty face is not enough; they are also using storytelling.
“The power of the story is upstaging the power of the sound bite in advertising,” writes Melinda Davis in her book The New Culture of Desire: Five Radical New Strategies That Will Change Your Business and Your Life. A good story is more personal and credible than a contrived advertising slogan, and we will remember a story long after a catchy tagline has faded from our memory.
Dave Thomas of Wendy’s, Scottie Mayfield of Mayfield Dairies, and Chrysler’s Lee Ioccoa are good examples of how marketers have used personhood to promote products. These CEOs are comfortable talking about themselves and are able to connect their stories to customers’ needs. Personalizing and storytelling work because they help people form emotional bonds with the company and its products.
Purpose: Most companies express purpose in the form of a mission statement, and while many companies have written mission statements, few live them. Many mission statements boast noble virtues, principles, and intentions, but it’s really profits that steer the corporate ship, and constituents know it.
Smart companies realize that when they put employees, customers, and society first, profits follow. By creating excellent work environments, they attract the best employees, and consumers will choose them over competitors if they offer hiqh-quality products and excellent service at a good price, and if they are socially responsible.
The last few years have seen an explosion in the field of corporate social responsibility. Today, almost all big companies have specific guidelines on social responsibility and are consciously engaged in efforts to give back to society.
Some call marketing with purpose “cause branding,” and one of the country’s leading experts on cause branding is Carol Cone, president of Boston-based Cone, Inc.
“As cause branding continues to evolve, so too will the public’s expectations about the role companies play in addressing societal needs. In the new reality, companies must implement meaningful, substantive programs around social issues to bring their values to life, articulate their ‘soul’, and answer the question, ‘What do you stand for?” Cone says.
Those that do put their money where their mission is — such as the BodyShop, Ben & Jerry’s, and Patogonia – are richly rewarded by consumers.
Persona: Persona describes the masks we wear, or the image we assume, in order to facilitate communication. In business, we call persona “branding.”
“Branding is merely establishing a relationship,” says Charlotte Beers, former head of two of advertising’s most prestigious brands, Ogilvy & Mather and J. Walter Thompson. Much has been written on branding and for good reason. Without it, a product, service, issue, or organization is no different than its competition and will die. But futurist Melinda Davis predicts that the power of the brand is waning. In its place, she says consumers will come to depend on new meta-brands that are idenified with a creed, or marketplace manifesto, and not tied into one product category. Davis sites Oprah Winfrey as an example of this emerging trend. Women interested in bettering themselves turn to Oprah for advice on a wide variety of issues from what recipe to cook to the right books to read. The Oprah meta-brand is also an excellent example of high voltage marketing(TM) because it possesses all four Ps: personhood, purpose, persona, and presence.
Presence: Presence refers to the way a company operates in the world including how it communicates with constituents. In the past, marketers depended primarily on one-way communication vehicles such as advertising and publicity. No longer.
Consumers want a say. “(They) are hoping to connect, to be heard, to be found – at least, to be seen – in a world that makes us feel increasingly invisible,” writes Davis.
Experts suggest using two-way communications vehicles such as word-of-mouth marketing, the Internet, and stronger consumer relations programs to dialog with consumers and build critical relationships.
Personhood, purpose, persona, and presence are not linear, but interrelated. Each depends on the other.
Personhood, purpose, persona, and presence can be pictured as the four points of a cross that is contained within a circle. Personhood is at the bottom of the cross where it grounds it; purpose is at the top. On the far left, resides persona, and on the opposite axis is presence. Where the four points join in the middle, high voltage communications(TM) take place, and it is here that we are at our most powerful as marketers.